Mayfield Elementary students and staff are donating $500 to the James. A Brennan Memorial Humane Society in Gloversville. That’s fantastic enough, but they are donating it under the name of Keller and John Gray.
Gray, who anchors the WTEN and FOX 23 news, visited the school on Monday to talk about Keller, his two-year Australian shepherd who is both blind and deaf. Gray and his family adopted the dog two years ago from a human society.
“He was found wandering around about an hour away from here,” Gray told the students. “Whoever had let him go or abandoned him, we’ll never know.”
He found Keller, whom he named after blind and deaf author Helen Keller, while he was volunteering at the shelter. Keller came right up to him and placed his head on Gray’s foot. “Even though we already had dogs at home, I feel this dog picked me out. We adopted him two weeks later,” said Gray, after his eyes were surgically sewn shut.
Gray has chronicled Keller’s life in a book titled Keller’s Heart. It details a young girl named Raven who is also deaf and how she comes in contact with Keller, who she finds at a local animal shelter.
“Keller is the best thing that ever happened to our family,” Gray said in a recent column. “He teaches patience and resilience and that nothing is so broken it should be thrown away. He has also taught me not to treat anyone with different abilities, be they two legs or four, as if they are made of glass or in need of sympathy or saving.”
Students had several questions for Gray, covering topics like how Keller can find his way around, do Gray’s other dogs get along with Keller, does Gray take him places and does Keller like cats?
Gray said Keller is able to find his way around by smelling and he always has to survey a location before he’s comfortable. His other dogs get along well with Keller. Gray takes him locations that are 10-15 minutes away, otherwise Keller gets very nervous. And Keller has never been exposed to a cat “but I’m sure he’d get along with a cat. He gets along with everybody.”
Before Gray’s presentation, Jennifer Andrews, an elementary parent and Board of Education member, said that his story about Keller touched her personally because she has a niece, named Morgan, who is deaf. “She is able to do all the things we do,” she told the students. “It’s her differences that make her unique and a rock star!”
Gray’s appearance was sponsored by SPAARK, Mayfield’s service program. Students, before the assembly, brought red hearts to attach to a bulletin board shaped like a heart that stated “We pledge to respect our differences and be kind to all.”
Rachael Imbert, a special education teacher at the school, noted that students had raised $452. Principal Katria Hitrick agreed to round it up to $500.
“And we talked about our differences and accepting everybody for who they are,” Imbert said to the students. “It’s important that we accept everybody for exactly who they are.”
Here are a few photos from today’s event.